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Vault Retrofit: MOCA Collection Storage Initiative

Vault Retrofit: MOCA Collection Storage Initiative

Vault Retrofit: MOCA Collection Storage Initiative

July 12 2022

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is proud to announce the completion of the Collection Storage Initiative, an extensive multi-year project that ensures the long-term preservation of the museum’s internationally renowned collection of contemporary art through the renovation of our on-site storage vault. These efforts were made possible thanks to generous grants from The Ahmanson Foundation and an anonymous funder. 

With its first acquisition in 1980, the foundation of MOCA’s collection was built through the acquisition of the Panza Collection and major gifts from Rita and Taft Schreiber, Barry Lowen, Marcia Simon Weisman, The Lannan Foundation, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, to name only a few. Over the past four decades, MOCA has acquired nearly 8,000 artworks in all media, representing the creative accomplishments of the premier artists of our time. Cornerstones of the collection include icons such as David Hammons, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, Agnes Martin, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Ed Ruscha, and more. Diversification efforts have added over 100 works in the last two years alone by women and artists of color who have been traditionally under-represented in the collection, deepening MOCA’s holdings in art since the 1940s. Our core purpose is to present these exemplary objects in scholarly, groundbreaking exhibitions and to safeguard them for future generations. 

Given the steady growth of this remarkable public asset, MOCA committed to an ambitious multi-year preservation effort. In 2010, a grant from The Ahmanson Foundation supported Phase I of the Collection Storage Initiative, enabling the museum to conduct a full inventory and streamline its database. The project helped initiate best practices for collection management and advanced our understanding of the storage and conservation needs of our collection. 

Our goal for Phase II, which began in 2015 thanks to a second grant from The Ahmanson Foundation, was to upgrade the existing on-site storage facility at MOCA’s flagship space on Grand Avenue to safely and more efficiently house the majority of MOCA’s collection. We wanted to make this space user-friendly so that artwork is easily accessible to our curators, registrars, and art handlers, as well as for visiting scholars and researchers. The contents of the vault were transferred to a temporary on-site space to facilitate the construction and installation of an entirely new fine art storage system fabricated and installed by German-based vendor StabaArte:

  • Instead of the traditional practice of concealing items in crates or vertical-stacking on full shelves, screened rolling racks and customized archival storage bins allow for easy access and viewing. 

  • Objects have been properly packed according to their design and stability. 

  • Storage capacity has doubled by consolidating framed works of similar sizes together in new bins with adjustable dimensions and resting the unframed works on paper and photography in flat files. 

  • Compact rolling shelves eliminate aisles and create room for more shelving. 

  • In addition to these new state-of-the-art fixtures, lighting was retrofitted to LED for cost savings and energy efficiency, the HVAC vents were cleaned, the floors were repaired and polished, and the space received a fresh coat of paint. 

All elements combine to honor the vision and legacy of MOCA’s collection artists. Now, approximately 80% of the artworks in the collection stays safely on site in the view of our registrars where its condition can be consistently monitored. 

We thank The Ahmanson Foundation and an anonymous funder for their lead support in this major initiative, which enabled the museum to transform the vault into an invaluable resource for the study of the most important post-war collection in the country. We look forward to sharing our renowned collection with you from the MOCA vault.